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Title: UMass Amherst Removed a Professor for Showing a "Downfall" Hitler Parody Video
Source: Reason
URL Source: https://reason.com/2020/01/06/umass ... wnfall-video-lowry-accounting/
Published: Jan 6, 2020
Author: Robby Soave
Post Date: 2020-01-07 14:05:00 by Deckard
Keywords: None
Views: 223
Comments: 9

"The point was to engage students in an otherwise dry and difficult subject material."

Screen Shot 2020-01-06 at 4.08.16 PM

(Screenshot via Downfall / Youtube)

Catherine West Lowry is a senior lecturer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. For the past 13 years, she has taught introductory accounting—a "dry and difficult subject matter," in her words.

To make the class more exciting, Lowry has for years let students make funny videos for extra credit. Some of these have been shown in class. A parody video from 2009 was particularly popular and has resurfaced in subsequent years.

Last semester, when Lowry showed this specific video, many students laughed at it. But at least a few were offended and complained to the administration, which subsequently relieved Lowry of her teaching duties.

The video in question is in the style of the popular Downfall parodies. Downfall, a 2004 German film that depicts the final days of Adolph Hitler and his inner circle, includes an extended scene of Hitler screaming at his subordinates that is rife for parody. People change the subtitles so that Hitler is ranting about something else: Here's a meta example about the parodies themselves, and here's one where Hitler realizes Pokemon aren't real. Lowry's students made one where Hitler is enrolled in the course and receive a bad grade.

Some of the humor may have crossed a line, in the eyes of a few students. At one point, the Hitler subtitle read: "Don't you dare finish that sentence or I'll send you to a chamber. And it won't be the chamber of commerce. I can guarantee that."

And yet "there were people laughing," one student told The Chronicle of Higher Education. "There were some people who were kind of indifferent. They didn't really care. There were some people that, like, you could tell they were a little bit uneasy about it."

"People sort of realized that that was a little over the top, maybe, for the classroom," said another. "But generally, people laughed pretty hard at it [the video]. I certainly did."

A second video—this one a parody of the 2018 song "Bust Down Thotiana"—also drew the attention of the administration.

Dean Anne Massey removed Lowry from her teaching position and attended the class's next session to inform students. Many took the news poorly, shouting "bring back [Lowry]." They eventually walked out in protest.

Massey did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for the university told the Chronicle that the video was objectively offensive, and had no place in the classroom.

Lowry sent an email to students apologizing if any of them were offended. At the same time, she was surprised by the administration's "snap judgment" that she could no longer teach her class:

"This was an educational opportunity at a major research university. It's just unfortunate that the university did not take advantage of this educational opportunity. Instead, they chose to follow a punitive process, which doesn't really help anybody," Lowry said. "I could have easily dealt with this, if I had been afforded that opportunity. They made a snap judgment and really trampled the reasonable processes we have in place here."

UMass Amherst is a public university, and punishing a professor for an attempt at humor raises some troubling First Amendment issues. The administration should correct course and reinstate Lowry. No one should be encouraging accounting professors to make their classes even more boring.

(Reason commenters once made a Downfall parody video at my expense, after I had forgotten to post the P.M. Links. I can no longer find the video, but if anyone manages to dig it up, please share.)

(2 images)

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#1. To: All (#0)

Downfall, about Hitler’s final days in a Berlin bunker, was released and nominated for an Academy Award in 2005, but resurfaced on the internet several years later as a meme. The four-minute scene in the students’ video, in which Hitler rants to a group of Nazi officials, became the basis for thousands of parodies, including, as The Chronicle noted in 2012, several by professors protesting scientific peer review.

The students’ take on the Hitler clip was created and uploaded to YouTube in 2009. Lowry told The Chronicle that the video had been a hit the semester it was produced, and that she’s used it as an example several times since. Never before, she said, had anyone complained about it.

Government is in the last resort the employment of armed men, of policemen, gendarmes, soldiers, prison guards, and hangmen.
The essential feature of government is the enforcement of its decrees by beating, killing, and imprisoning.
Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.

Deckard  posted on  2020-01-07   14:09:35 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#2. To: Deckard, Liberator (#0)

(Reason commenters once made a Downfall parody video at my expense, after I had forgotten to post the P.M. Links. I can no longer find the video, but if anyone manages to dig it up, please share.)

Some Downfall parodies never die.

Tooconservative  posted on  2020-01-07   19:59:49 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#3. To: Tooconservative (#2) (Edited)

"Don't you dare finish that sentence or I'll send you to a chamber. And it won't be the chamber of commerce. I can guarantee that."

Funniest line in the entire video.

Gee whiz - it wasn't even the real Hitler and a couple of snowflakes were offended? This after showing the video to classes since 2009?

Not sure if Liberator checks in here anymore - got a PM from him a while back and saw him over at 4um on the flat earth (what else) discussion.

Government is in the last resort the employment of armed men, of policemen, gendarmes, soldiers, prison guards, and hangmen.
The essential feature of government is the enforcement of its decrees by beating, killing, and imprisoning.
Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.

Deckard  posted on  2020-01-07   20:04:32 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#4. To: Deckard (#3)

Had to flag him, he was co-author. Sort of. I wrote the script and created it based on some of his ideas. At the time, he was kinda shocked I actually produced it and uploaded it. Of course, the errors in the timing of the subtitles were entirely my own fault.

Tooconservative  posted on  2020-01-07   20:29:40 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#5. To: Tooconservative (#4)

At the time, he was kinda shocked I actually produced it and uploaded it. Of course, the errors in the timing of the subtitles were entirely my own fault.

How does that work exactly? Do you need any special computer stuff to make one?

Government is in the last resort the employment of armed men, of policemen, gendarmes, soldiers, prison guards, and hangmen.
The essential feature of government is the enforcement of its decrees by beating, killing, and imprisoning.
Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.

Deckard  posted on  2020-01-07   20:32:23 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#6. To: Deckard, liberator (#3)

The LP thread where the video came from:

LP: Free Republic News : Friend 'Bob J' Zotted, 2/20/2010

LP: Free Republic News : Friend 'Bob J' Zotted, #258, (where I first located a torrent of Der Untergang and explained to liberator how we could make our own Downfall video by altering the subtitle files)

LP: Free Republic News : Friend 'Bob J' Zotted, #316, (liberator posts his half-finished script for me; it became the skeleton of the final Downfall video)

LP: Free Republic News : Friend 'Bob J' Zotted, #432, (first post of final Downfall video), 2/23/2010


The section of Biker Bar articles at LP from early 2010 where the first BobJ thread was found, circa February 2010. Glancing at these, you get a flavor of what LP was like, who was posting, what was going on in Biker Bar back then, etc.

LP: Latest Articles: Biker Bar, 1/27/2010 - 3/14/2010


Also, don't kid yourself: Liberator certainly is checking in here at LF.

Tooconservative  posted on  2020-01-07   21:37:57 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#7. To: Deckard (#5) (Edited)

How does that work exactly? Do you need any special computer stuff to make one?

It's pretty easy. Just download a movie, download the subtitles (which are plain text files), change the text to what you want the subtitles to say. I explain a bit of how I did it for our anti-Freeper video in post #258, (see link above).

Really, it could hardly be easier. You do have to know a bit about how to remux a video with hardcoded subtitles (forcing it to always show the subtitles) but that isn't hard. Lots of free video encoding programs can do it, no problem.

If you want to do one, I could help you get the info you need to doctor up the subtitle files and then hardcode them onto the film. It really isn't hard.

I'm afraid I can't find the original files I used for the anti-Freeper video that liberator and I did. I may have them but I have no idea where they'd be. Some old hard drive or DVD backup. I'm pretty sure that I got the Untergang film from either Demonoid or Pirate Bay and it had the subtitles I needed included with the film. So all I had to do was start altering the subtitle files (which were ordinary text files you could change with any text editor).

[The above info about when and how the video was made was added to my LF Home Page, just in case we want the info again someday.]

Tooconservative  posted on  2020-01-07   21:46:41 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#8. To: Tooconservative (#2)

LOL...thanks for sharing. That is hilarious..."Viking Kitties" and "ZOTS"...brings back memories. Wonder how ol' JimRob is doing these days.

"Devolve Power Outta the Federal Leviathan and Back to the States,
Localities, and Individuals as Prescribed in the US Constitution."

Mudboy Slim  posted on  2020-01-10   6:38:28 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#9. To: Mudboy Slim (#8)

Wonder how ol' JimRob is doing these days.

I heard that RimJob is dead, his body is wrapped in a plastic sheet and buried in his backyard. That way, the lucrative Freepathons can continue forever.

Tooconservative  posted on  2020-01-10   9:21:08 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


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